Latest reviews by Amanda Wagner

(2019)
"I Love the 90's 5k review "
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When BibRave gave me the opportunity to run a new-to-Chicago race called I Love the 90’s 5k, I knew I could not turn it down! As a 1992 baby, the 90s hold some special memories. And yes, I know I was 8 at the turn of the century, BUT I still have many memories of scrunchies, overalls, choker necklaces, crop tops, and, of course, Gameboy!

Anyway, let’s discuss the 5k race! I was not sure what to expect going into this race. Since it was a new race, I thought I may have a shot at placing in my age group, but I also had not been doing 5k targeted speed work, so I did not put any pressure on myself. Furthermore, my true goal race is the Chicago Marathon and the Rock N Roll Chicago half is my “check-in” race, so I’ve been running some serious (for me) mileage. I had been in the 50 miles per week range going into this race and the legs were feeling tired, so I just told myself to give it the best effort I could.

I was lucky that my husband and sister-in-law were willing to spectate and warm-up with me since I did not know anyone going into the race. We ran around 1.10 miles for my warm up and then I made my way to the start line. I put an extra scrunchie on my wrist, tightened my hat, chit chatted with people at the start line and then the racing gun went off…

The first mile passed pretty unremarkably. I kept the two top guys and the lead biker in my view and ran a 6:09. I was going for a 6:10, so I was happy with it. I’m guessing the two leaders went out around 6 minute pace. I was feeling decent, despite my high mileage week. Soon after the first mile I saw my husband and sister-in-law.

Then, mile 2 was the most eventful mile by far. For those of you that know me in real life, the next set of events will come as no surprise. 😛 I was in 3rd place overall in the race and the two lead guys had gained some ground on me, so I could no longer see them or the lead biker. I came to a cross roads just before mile 2 and the arrow on the ground was partially etched away, so it was not clear if it was indicating to go straight or to turn right…I guessed and started going straight as I screamed out “which way do I go?”, but heard no response because no one was near me… I had a sinking feeling I was going the wrong way and about 15 seconds later I looked behind me and saw in the distance the 4th place person (a guy), go right by that arrow. I quickly sprinted back toward the crossroad and made a right to go back on the course successfully adding on approximately 25 seconds to the race official 2nd mile (my watch hit the 2nd mile in 6:23). I was feeling frustrated that it was not clear where I was supposed to go and now I was in 4th place… I later hit the 2nd mile on the race course around 6:45. I was also feeling frustrated because I think I could have stuck closer to the top two guys and then I wouldn’t haven’t gotten confused at the cross roads, but I (falsely) figured they were running around 17 minute 5k pace, which is not the shape I was currently in.

I vowed to put my 2nd mile behind me and just focus on the final 1.1 miles I had left and give it my best effort. About 200 m into mile 3, I passed the 4th place guy and was once again in no-(wo)man’s land running all alone. Thankfully the rest of the arrows were clear and I even saw a race photographer on some sort of electric scooter, which made me smile. Around 300 meters to go I saw my husband and sister-in-law, and told myself I was going to have to really kick it in to still be under 20 minutes with my course mishap during mile 2. I knew my true time was in the low 19 minutes, but what could I do, except kick at this point? I was determined! I hit mile 3 at 6:25 according to my watch… And then I saw finish line in the distance and felt confused when I saw an unbroken tape. I knew I was not going to be the winner, there were two guys for sure ahead of me. Then I realized it was for me, because I was the first place female! I tried to sprint it in even more as I approached the tape and put my hands up because I had never broken a tape before and that’s what I saw all the pros do when they won a race. 😛 I ran 5:40 pace for the last 200 m, which is not really a sprint (for me), but I tried, okay?!

I crossed the finish line in an official time of 20:06, knowing very well that I had run an extra 200 meters with the mishap during mile 2. My Garmin showed that I ran 3.21 miles in 20:06, putting my actual 5k well under 20 minutes. Regardless, I was 1st female and 3rd overall, which is pretty cool! And if anyone is interested, my 5k was actually around 19:28… 😛

When I found out 2nd place was 19:04, I thought to myself that I could have run that time or pretty darn close. Usually I don’t go out with the very lead guys in a race because the lead guys are typically under 17 minutes and I am certainly not in that kind of shape right now. But, what I do know, is that it is harder to push yourself when running alone, which is what I did most of the race and you just have to do your best! I probably would have had a more successful race (and would not have gotten confused during mile 2) if I stuck with those 2 guys. But oh well, I still had a fun race! 🙂

Overall, the race was awesome! The medals were cool, there was a costume contest for the best 90’s costume, and I won a free entry for next year, so I can try to defend my title. haha. Plus, the other top two females were super sweet and it was fun to meet them and take a photo with them at the awards ceremony. I also loved all the 90s music on the course and at the awards ceremony-I still have Barbie Girl in my head weeks later 🤣 I will definitely be back next year, it’s free for me after all 😉 And they will also be debuting their 10k race next year, if you are into 10ks more than 5ks! 😛

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(2019)
"Chicago Spring Half 10k 2019"
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It was such an unexpectedly warm May day, but I'm so glad I ran this 10k race. I am slowly getting back into running fitness and used this race as a check-in for my goal half marathon (Rock N Roll Chicago) and goal marathon (Chicago). My plan was to start around 6:50 pace and see if i could bring down the pace for the duration of the 10k. I ended up at 6:59 pace, so not quite what I was hoping, but the heat was a big factor and the fact that in some parts I had a hard time figuring out where to run because of the congestion. Since I was in the 10k, we started after the half and around mile 3 and 4 I got trapped between the leaders in the half coming from the other direction and the 3 hour half group going the same direction as me, which I was struggling to run around , since it was a big group. That is my only complaint about the race, the congestion. It was otherwise well run, plenty of aid stations, and the bonus breakfast buffet at the end was awesome. I also loved that each of us got to take home a free plant, mine is still (surprisingly) kicking today. I'd run this race again, but ideally the half marathon, rather than the 10k.

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(2019)
"Running for tacos and fun!"
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This is the first race I've done truly for fun and not for competition. And for this type A, competitive runner that was tough! But I have no had that much fun in a race in a long time, so I'm glad I did :) I think the reason I had fun is because I agreed to run the race stride for stride with one of my good friends, Ben! He had just run the Illinois Marathon the previous week and I have just started seriously training, so there was no reason to run a fast, competitive race for either of us. I also do not think I was capable of a fast competitive race at this point anyway. :P e lined up in corral A and agreed to keep our 5 mile race pace around 8 minute miles. And that is exactly what we did! Although it was technically a negative split! Mile 1 was 8:00 minutes and by mile 5 we were at 7:27, but this is because we saw my husband and the inflatable piñata that signified the finish line.

The course was flat and fast along the lakefront path, although there were some spots of flooding from the recent rain. The volunteers were nice and helpful, especially with the spot on the course around mile 4 where we had to veer off the lakefront path. Post-race we were offered beer (although not me because I forgot my ID). And there was a mechanical bull, but I was too afraid to try it. It looked really fun though! And the breakfast buffet had tacos galore.

Overall, the Cinco de Miler was an awesome race! The race day weather could not be beat, either. The race course is flat, fast, and it’s a rare distance, so it is an (almost) guaranteed PR (unless you didn't race it like me). The post-race party was very festive, with the music and mechanical bull. And they had breakfast tacos, enough said! :P They also have free race photos and who doesn't love that?! It is a race that I plan to run again, but to actually race the next time ;)

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(2019)
"Fun way to kick off the 2019 racing season!"
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This was my first time running the Shamrock Shuffle and I had a great time. :) The expo was small, but had some good swag and it was easy to find my race bib, shirt, etc. On race morning it was easy to get into the park and my corral-much easier than it was at the Chicago marathon. I got to the park 45 min early, warmed up, checked my gear, and then made my way to corral A for the race. I hadn't been running much going into this race (about 15 mi/week) and just recovering form an injury, so i went in ready to have fun. The course was similar to the Chicago marathon, flat and fast. There were a few aid stations, but with the short race and cool weather, I did not need the fluids. It was well marked and there was carpet on the slippery bridge, which was nice. I did much better than expected with my lack of training and the energy on the course was contagious. It was a great kickoff to the 2019 racing season! Post race i got my medal and there were plenty of snacks from Mariano's and beers for all. I definitely want to run the Shuffle again in 2020!

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(2018)
"Run for the Zoo 10k"
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I was lucky enough to run my first ever 10k at the Lincoln Park Zoo Run for the Zoo on Sunday June 3, 2018. Even though I ran cross country/track in college, I never made it through a track season due to injury and thus never got the chance to run a 10k race. The weather on race morning was absolutely perfect for a shorter race: sunny, no wind, and in the 70's. :)

My training for this race was virtually non-existent. I ran the Illinois Half Marathon on April 28, 2018 and after the race I took a couple weeks off/very low mileage due to some knee/hip pain. Once I finally started running again, I did not do any speed work and only ran 9 times between the half marathon and this race, so I was very surprised with the outcome.

-Expo/Packet pick up: The packet pick-up was held the Friday and Saturday before the race at the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was easy to find and the volunteers were friendly. I picked up packets for myself, my husband, and some friends since I was off work the Friday before the race.

-Parking: It was a little tough to find parking at the Lincoln Park Zoo lot and it was a little expensive, but it was worth it to get a close parking spot. Michael and his mom found a parking garage about a mile from the zoo for cheaper. Free Street parking is hard to come by in the area, so you should either take public transit or be willing to shell out some cash for parking. 

-Waiting for the start: The start line was easy to find and had different sections of the corral depending on your projected finish time pace. I lined up a the appropriate spot, but I felt like a lot of other people did not. There were definitely people who started too fast and then faded, but I feel like this happens most races. 

-Race course: The course was relatively flat and fast. It started on the road in front of the Lincoln Park Zoo, then moved to the Lake Front Running Path, and then you finished with a loop inside the Zoo. There were lots of beautiful views to take in on the 10k course! The only parts of the course I did not like was the start of the race/end of the race were run on the uneven road and the slippery board walk in the last half mile. I felt nervous that I was going to slip, but I luckily did not. It is not the race's fault either- it had rained the night before. Overall, they did a great job of marking the course and ensuring our safety.

 
-Post race/after party: As soon as I finished the race inside the Zoo, I was greeted with all kinds of beverages and treats. My favorite was the post-race popsicle! There were various vendors out and about, so you could get a lot of free treats. Kind bars, beer, water, Gatorade, and Bobo's Oat Bars to name a few. You could take a walk through the Zoo to say hello to the animals, take pictures in any of the ionic locations in the zoo, or dance to the post-race music. 

-Swag: Every finisher got a cool dri-fit shirt. The top male and female 5k and 10k winners each won free flight tickets, so that was cool. As mentioned above, there were treats galore. There were also free race photos and they definitely captured some great moments during the race. :P

Overall, it was fun race! It’s flat and fast which is perfect for obtaining a 5k or 10k PR. I'd run it again next year!

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